Rattlers no match for UF

The 10th-seeded Gators have advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th straight year.


Published: Monday, July 1, 2002 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, July 2, 2002 at 1:32 p.m.

Judging by how they played this one, Mary Wise is right. This Florida team could be one of the most experienced and veteran teams it has had in several years.

Against Florida A&M in Thursday's first round of the NCAA Tournament at the O'Connell Center, Florida looked and played like the overwhelming favorite they were. Calm, cool and confident.

The 10th-seeded Gators cruised past the Rattlers 3-0 (30-20, 30-13, 30-22) advancing into the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the 11th straight year.

Tonight at 7 p.m. Florida (26-1) will face Florida International, 3-0 winners over Central Florida in Thursday's first match. The winner advances to next weekends Regionals at a site to be determined. FIU (24-7) is enjoying its best season since joining Division I-A in 1987.

"They run an offense similar to Arkansas' offense and we played against that offense not too long ago," said Wise, who moved to 27-10 in tournament play as Florida's coach. "My impression of them is another good serving team."

FIU's impression of the Gators after Thursday certainly begins with a talented pair of middle blockers. Florida got team-highs of 13 kills and four blocks from junior middle blocker Nicole McCray while fellow middle blocker Benavia Jenkins added 12 kills on 15 attacks and blocked two balls. It all added up to one dominating performance at the net.

"They have a pretty good pair of middle blockers in Benavia Jenkins and Nicole McCray," FAMU coach Tony Trifonov said. "They both did a great job, especially hitting that back slide."

McCray applauded her teams' passing afterward and the setting of senior Kris Bova, who finished with 41 assists.

"We did a great job passing and setting," McCray said. "Our big focus for tonight was keeping the ball in play. We knew that would be the key against their offense."

Florida outblocked FAMU 14-1 and held the Rattlers to a .057 hitting percentage, well below their .351 average which ranks second in the country.

"They get an earful in practice about blocking," Wise said. "That's one of our goals to be a top 10 blocking team in the country."

FAMU came out matching Florida step for step in the first game, tying the game three times, the last at 14, but never leading. The second game became a rout, as Florida mixed in a few laughs and high fives behind the encouragement of a crowd of 1,153. Again leading big (17-12) in the third game, Florida's intensity waned as FAMU pulled with 22-20, forcing a Florida timeout. But in all, it was as convincing as any Florida win this year.

"It's not just winning and move on, you want to be playing your best volleyball every step of the way," Wise said. "You look at the stats ... we're not only glad we won, but glad that we played well."

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